Students seek to reinstate a National Organization for Women chapter

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September 11, 2017

11:12 PM

In 1966, while second-wave feminism was flourishing, a group of women came together to form what is now the largest organization for feminist grassroots activism: the National Organization for Women, or NOW. NOW’s mission statement is “to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect…equal rights.”

In the 1970s, the College of William and Mary established a NOW chapter to encourage the incorporation of feminist principles into the institution through policy change, education and collective activism. Over time, however, the chapter’s involvement dwindled and eventually fizzled out. In response to the 2016 election and all the controversy surrounding it, however, a few students decided to reinstate a NOW chapter at William and Mary.

The chapter is currently in the process of seeking out new members

“It’s not just women who can join, it is [for] anyone of any gender. Feminism has no gender,” Melanie Carter ’19, the chapter’s social media coordinator and event planner, said.

“Our main goal is education, so just educating ourselves, educating the community on what feminism is, and how [one] can contribute,” Carter said.

The executive team of the chapter is striving for diversity among its members to promote a variety of perspectives for an intersectional approach to feminism.

The chapter aims to focus heavily on the education of feminist ideals, theories and philosophies.

“Our main goal is education, so just educating ourselves, educating the community on what feminism is, and how [one] can contribute,” Carter said.

During the chapter’s biweekly meetings, members have the opportunity to present on feminist issues that they are passionate about, such as human trafficking, the importance of being an ally, women in business and more. The chapter is adamant about member participation, and encourages members to sign up to present on topics of their choice to cultivate important conversations at meetings.

“There are a lot of things that fall under feminism, so it’s really hard to focus on one thing, but it’s really cool when people present, and they get really into it,” Carter said. “Sometimes it’s stuff that no one really knows about, too.”

Some of the issues that the chapter focuses on include economic justice, racial justice, reproductive rights, ending violence against women and LGBTQ rights. To better understand these issues, the chapter plans to collaborate with other social justice groups on campus, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Young Democrats, Planned Parenthood and others.

“One of our biggest goals with NOW is to create a community dedicated to fighting patriarchal power in its many forms,” Mari Nemec ‘17, the standing president of the club, said. “This means educating others and ourselves about not just gender inequality, but all forms of inequality, including racial and economic inequality. We hope to contribute to an already strong activist community on campus by promoting intersectional activism within our organization.”

“This campus definitely needs a strong feminist organization to help tie everything together,” Carter said. “We could all work together and do a lot of stuff … There needs to be more of that on this campus.”

NOW is working to support and help plan events with other groups in order to start more conversations about the intersectionality of feminist issues. In 2018, the chapter is planning on hosting events with other groups on campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of black women and the 100th anniversary of women attending the College.

Along with widespread education, the chapter works to fundraise for different national organizations that promote feminist principles through their work. Last year, the club raised money to endorse gender pay equality, women’s shelters and the increased representation of women in office with the organization Emily’s List.

Since the group is determined to support intersectionality in feminism, it has also raised money for groups that aren’t strictly feminist, such as Amnesty International. This year, the chapter plans to arrange more fundraisers for groups with missions that raise awareness of important feminist issues and intersectionality.

“[We] want to start the conversation more of having an open campus, a very accepting campus,” Carter said.

Another of NOW’s goals is to create a sense of community on the campus.

“One of our biggest goals with NOW is to create a community dedicated to fighting patriarchal power in its many forms,” Mari Nemec ‘17, the standing president of the club, said. “This means educating others and ourselves about not just gender inequality, but all forms of inequality, including racial and economic inequality. We hope to contribute to an already strong activist community on campus by promoting intersectional activism within our organization.”

Carter also added that the organization is committed to creating a more accepting campus.

“[We] want to start the conversation more of having an open campus, a very accepting campus,” Carter said.

Students are looking forward to the new dynamic of this club on campus.

“I think it’s important because we are lacking in actual truths and realities that women face on campus and off,” Noora Abdel-Fattah ’20 said.

NOW meets biweekly Thursdays at 8 p.m. in Tucker Hall, room 222. Its next meeting will be held Sept. 21. Any questions about the organization can be directed to Mari Nemec at [email protected]

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